So now that we’ve got that pesky little labor snafu out of the way, let baseball’s real offseason fun begin. And by that, of course, we mean:
Bring on the winter meetings!
They will come roaring at us from the shores of the Potomac River, starting Sunday. And when you consider all the offseason activity that got shoved in the back of the freezer as teams awaited further developments on the labor front, these meetings have a chance to be crazy.
Yanks both rebuilding and reloading this winter. Wait … what?
You know that youth movement in the Bronx that began at the trade deadline? It’s still on. But so is a possible spending spree at the winter meetings.
“If you want a prediction, I would expect a lot of action,” one AL executive said. “I think there’s a lot of stuff out there that people have arranged and want to do and have had a lot of substantive talks about. And they were left like, ‘Once we know all the rules [in the labor deal], let’s get moving on this.'”
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OK, so what happens now that those folks finally know all the rules — or know most of them, anyway? Let the transactions begin. That’s what.
First off, there are many, many free agents left to sign, in a world in which 19 of Keith Law’s top 23 free agents remain on the board. And some of them — say, Edwin Encarnacion, Carlos Beltran and Rich Hill, to name three — could go quickly.
But what really will make these winter meetings an awesome Rumor Central attraction is that, for once, those free agents aren’t going to be headliners in this show. It’s going to be a week in which a bunch of five-star, bright-lights players are going to turn up in, like, a dozen trade rumors a day — because, as long as they’re not a closer or a first baseman/DH, they’re potentially much bigger difference-makers than anyone on the free-agent market.
“It’s one of the worst free-agent groups I can remember,” said one longtime NL exec. “So I think people are saying, ‘Let’s go make a trade.'”
And if that’s what they’re saying, it could be one action-packed week. So if anyone needs help out there as they steer their shopping cart through the aisles, we’re here to offer our “expert” assistance — by presenting this handy-dandy buyer’s guide to the winter meetings:
If you’re in the market for starting pitching this winter, you’d better have more than a shopping cart full of baseballs to barter. AP Photo/Morry Gash
The good news: There are three dozen available free-agent starters. The bad news: Exactly one of them is coming off a season in which he worked more than 100 innings, had an ERA under 3.70 and had an ERA+ more than 23 percent above the league average. That would be Rich Hill, naturally. And even though he’ll turn 37 next March, Hill is poised to sign the contract of a lifetime. (Our prediction: He goes back to the Dodgers.)
Joe Carter Limited Jersey So for teams looking for top-of-the-rotation arms, the only real route is the Trade Rumor section of this market. And luckily for them, there are some intriguing starters on those shelves.